Sep 22, 2008

1984 by George Orwell


This is pretty much the gold standard by which modern dystopian fiction is judged. And rightly so. You've got all the necessary elements - possibly fictional government figurehead, repression at all levels of life, revision of history, brutal police, "anyone could be a spy", lack of art and music, brainwashing, denial of sexual and romantic urges. And, perhaps most importantly, Orwell could actually write. I cared about poor ol' Winston. (Not so much about Julia, mind you - after all, she was just "a rebel from the waist down".)

Books and papers and on and on have been written about 1984 and newspeak and Big Brother and all the rest. I'm just going to touch on a few things. For one, I think Orwell got it exactly right when he portrayed Winston as hating and fearing the revisionism he was deeply a part of - and yet, he still took pride in a job well done as he changed articles and destroyed past reality. That's just so damn human, isn't it? Me, I hate a lot of what my job does, but I take some pride in the way I do my small, administrative tasks.

The other thing that socks me in the gut - well, one of them - is the Parsons and their children. To be betrayed by your kids is a fear common to all parents, I would suspect. And making that an everyday - even a praise-worthy - part of society is just one more way of making sure that all control remains with the state. I can't imagine having no one worth trusting. Literally no one, even those who came from your own substance, that considers you as worthy as themselves. Worst part? Not even the kids' fault - they're the puppies from Animal Farm, raised to protect those who hold the reins.

Regarding current economic events, I just want to throw this out there:
It had always been assumed that if the capitalist class were expropriated, Socialism must follow: and unquestionably the capitalists had been expropriated. Factories, mines, land, houses, transport--everything had been taken away from them: and since these things were no longer private property, it followed that they must be
public property. Ingsoc, which grew out of the earlier Socialist movement and inherited its phraseology, has in fact carried out the main item in the Socialist programme; with the result, foreseen and intended beforehand, that economic inequality has been made permanent.

final thought: I can't believe this was the first time I read this one, but it's so deeply embedded in so much of our culture by now that it seemed familiar from the beginning.

That cover up there is the one I have. But I sure wish I had this one instead.


B.E. Earl said...

I've read it 3 or 4 times (the first time when I was 12...I don't believe I understood it then), but not in about 15 years. Might be time to dust if off for another go round.

downtown guy said...

Give it another shot. It seems to me that the real world lends different context to 1984 as things change.

Mr Pineapples said...

Read it
See lots of it in the world now
Kid P has just read it - he's 14 and understood it's meaning...